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On Tuesday, with a biting wind swirling through St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral Cemetery, Oulanova’s long, slender fingers smoothed the purple felt fabric covering her son’s coffin. She taped an Orthodox crucifix onto the coffin, then added a plaque with her son’s portrait on it. She covered it all with a floral flannel blanket.
The handful of people whom Oulanova had roped into her decade-long quest waited patiently. There was Mary Johnson, who had befriended Oulanova just weeks after she arrived in Minneapolis the first time in 2000. “She looked like she needed a ride,” Johnson said. And there was Father Andrew Morbey, a priest at St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis, who said a few prayers. Hunt was there along with the grave diggers.
Few of them would be surprised to learn that she cajoled her way into JFK’s restricted cargo area to ensure the box carrying her son’s body was OK. Or that she stood on crates, peeking into the funeral home’s garage to ensure her son’s body had been moved to the cooler. Or that she shoveled the dirt back into the grave herself rather than leave it for workers who would come later.
But as the coffin was lowered into the grave, Oulanova’s stoicism gave way to tears. But only briefly.
“Now I am very happy,” Oulanova said. “The soul of my son has peace. Now I have peace.”
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788